Innovation can happen in businesses of all sizes. Both Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and large firms have an important role to play in securing Canada as a globally competitive innovation hub. Bringing new ideas to market, however, can be challenging if only one company’s financial and planning resources are used. Increasingly, companies are overcoming this barrier by forming innovation clusters with researchers and additional industry partners.
These partnerships are the focus for the Government of Canada’s new Innovation Superclusters Initiative (ISI). The program offers Canadian government grants for industry-led research and development collaborations to establish priorities for expanding innovation, then undertake projects which achieve these goals. Funding support will improve and accelerate projects, ultimately leading to wide-scale industry improvements.
Superclusters may receive up to 75% of eligible administrative/operating costs to a maximum $125M-$250M in Canadian government grants. This funding must be matched by members of the innovation cluster.
To apply, industry-led superclusters must submit a Letter of Intent (first of a two-stage process) by July 21, 2017. At the time of this initial submission, innovation partnerships must include at least five members including four private businesses and a minimum of one post-secondary research institution.
Innovation Superclusters Initiative – Program Details
The Innovation Superclusters Initiative is an ambitious, new program aimed at building ecosystems of high-growth, high-potential businesses. Through the program, industry-led consortiums (consisting of for-profits, non-profits, and academia) will work together to establish and execute an innovation strategy.
These strategies should feature the development of new technology which supports productivity or new commercial opportunities.
Through the program, multiple companies and research organizations will come together to form a non-profit consortium. This consortium, referred to as the “supercluster entity” may then develop a Supercluster Strategy defining specific actions that can be taken to maximize the opportunities and future potential of companies in a particular industry.
Funding will be awarded to the consortium; consortiums are required to allocate money to members carrying out the Supercluster Strategy. Eligible expenses include Canadian-based costs for cluster administration/operation, as well as expenses required to accomplish the Supercluster Strategy.
Types of Activities Required from Innovation Superclusters
Innovation superclusters will develop technology-based growth strategies, then implement projects which improve the industry’s ability to grow. Project themes considered for funding include:
- (Mandatory) Technology Leadership: Researching, developing, and commercializing products/processes that directly enhance the productivity, performance and competitiveness of member firms.
- Partnerships for Scale: Improving the synergistic benefits of supercluster firms, including the development of opportunities for startups and small businesses (through funding pitches, mentoring, or consulting), and development of well-integrated supply chains.
- Diverse and Skilled Talent Pools: Improving access to skilled workers, including the development and promotion of industry-specific training programs and assessment/forecasting of current/future industry needs.
- Access to Innovation: Developing or accessing research assets, including the installation of dedicated laboratory space and equipment.
- Global Advantage: Promoting the cluster by participating in trade missions, attracting investments to the cluster region, and developing policy proposals to enhance Canada’s domestic technology advantage.
Innovation Supercluster Eligibility Requirements
To qualify for the fund, businesses must be part of an industry-led research consortium or be able to formalize one upon approval into the program. These innovation partnerships must maintain a minimum of 11 organizations in total, including:
- 2+ large companies (500+ employees);
- 1+ medium companies (100-499 employees);
- 4+ small companies (1-99 employees);
- 1+ other SME (1-499 employees); and
- 1+ post-secondary institution (university, college, or polytechnic).
Please Note: At the time of initial application, only five partners (including at least two large firms, one medium firm, one small firm, and one academic partner) need to be identified.
Highly Innovative Industries
The ISI program also requires that all for-profit partners come from highly innovative industries. These industries are top contributors to research and intellectual property (IP) development, and include:
- Advanced Manufacturing;
- Clean Technology;
- Digital Technology;
- Health and Biosciences;
- Clean Resources; and
- Transportation and infrastructure.
How to Apply for the Innovation Superclusters Initiative
To participate in the Innovation Superclusters Initiative (ISI), consortiums must identify a lead applicant (either a business or the non-profit consortium itself) to manage the application process. Once a lead applicant has been identified, it can begin developing a program proposal.
There is a two-stage application process all consortiums must complete before gaining approval for project funding. This process involves:
- Letter of Intent: Details at least 5 consortium partners including at least 4 private sector participants and 1 academic institution and explains how the consortium will be able to deliver sustainable industry results.
- Full Application: Only consortiums with an approved Letter of Intent package will be invited to submit a full application. Full applications request more information on consortium partners, and require a detailed breakdown of activities that will be taken to achieve improved cluster performance.
There will only be one intake for ISI applications; interested consortiums must submit a Letter of Intent by July 21, 2017. Contact Mentor Works to discuss the program in greater detail and learn if your innovation partnership is eligible.